CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management III

cuttlefish camo

Courtesy of Kings of Camouflage
http://www.PBS.org

In the third installment of looking at the evolutionary path of CRM in a social media sea we will continue using an analog of the cuttlefish ( PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” ). The cuttlefish’s evolution directly links the cells which manage its camouflage on its skin to its brain and it’s eyes, unlike reptilian chameleons. This provides two distinct advantages; speed in matching the surrounding environment to hide and the ability to mesmerize its prey to eat. Both of these are critical for today’s corporations to survive as well.One of the larger issues today is the integration and coordination of social media in the larger sphere of advertising, marketing, public relations, and consumer relations. Too many corporations take a stimulus-response approach to social media; Twitter bad: reply to Twitter on Twitter, Facebook bad: Facebook on Facebook, etc. Great strategy if you are a planeria flatworm. Bad strategy if you are Pepsi taking on Mayor Bloomberg of NYC regarding fat cola drinking children. Much better to respond by taking people’s temperature with Twitter and Facebook, crafting/commissioning some puff pieces with tame media in multiple outlets, turning into commercial sound-bytes for a mass-market TV ad (in this case like Coke), and resample via Twitter and Facebook for people’s response. Rinse and repeat. This is analogous to the cuttlefish tuning its camouflage to where it is heading as it is running, using its eyes and its brain real-time.

It has been reported that Turkey’s AKP is recruiting and training 6,000 social network storm troopers to counter the opposition’s current use of the social media and get the “correct” word out on the street. Major corporations such as Samsung, apparel design houses, and auto manufacturers “sponsor” influential social media personalities (good recent article in the Wall Street Journal) to try product(s), go to events and take pictures of/with their products. All of this to get past people’s highly evolved resistance to classic media. This all needs to be tracked and coordinated in one place, one data store to rule them all CRM (My Precious). It is too easy for any initiative to go awry without command and control driven by good intelligence. There will of necessity be a large number of relationships to coordinate in a campaign structure and CRM has most of the requisite plumbing in place out of the box.

Now if we add automated software to sweep the Social/Internet space queueing: related keyword topics, natural language parsing of blogs/posts, specific individuals or media outlets, Twitter, etc., a new dimension of potential neural intelligence data will be added. Indexing this information to the social matrix in CRM will allow for its rapid intelligent assessment by people who are informed and in the best position to counter with the total collection of media assets, like a cuttlefish evading a predator or mesmerizing prey. This is why we will see CRM at the nexus of this evolution, it is the fastest way to bring all of the data and all of the people together in one place quickly, without the drag or delay of custom developed systems.

Yammer or SharePoint 2013 for the Social Enterprise?

In buying Yammer last year, Microsoft pretty much acknowledged that it dropped the ball on social and needed to bring in external reinforcements. Acquiring Yammer also fits well with the new cloud services approach of office 365. The vision according to Microsoft is cloud first. They love the ability to roll out changes and fixes on a faster pace, but mostly, they love the business model.

At the same time SharePoint 2013 includes a much improved set of tools for social collaboration including a brand new activity stream app. So what should you use? Yammer or SharePoint 2013 built in social tools?

Here is the timeline and guidance as provided by Microsoft:

If you are a SharePoint cloud user – go with Yammer. There is a basic integration available now with the promise of single signon in the fall. They also promise updates every 90 days.

If you are an on-premise user (and most companies are since SharePoint 2010 online was not very good..) and moving to SharePoint 2013, the decision is a bit more complicated.

Yammer offers an existing app for SharePoint 2010 that can be integrated in if you are a paying Yammer customer, but nothing yet announced for SharePoint 2013.

So the only option really is to deploy the SharePoint social services unless you are already using Yammer Enterprise and can wait if/until they support 2013.

The longer term roadmap beyond 2014 is cloudy as well. Yammer is a cloud offering and will clearly be tightly integrated into office 365 but as much as Microsoft would like to, not everyone will get on their cloud platform that quickly. In all likelihood, Microsoft will continue to support and even release new version of SharePoint on premise but certain aspects will likely not be improved much and Social seems one of them. Yammer will become a selling point and an incentive to go cloud.

Another interesting point is how will this work for Hybrid Deployments and how migration to the cloud will handle the social data or be able to migrate it into Yammer. We’ll have to wait and see..

For more details see the official blog post from Microsoft and an interesting post on ZDNET on how Microsoft approached social for their internal Intranet, apparently using both models and giving users the choice when creating a collaboration site based on their primary need – document based (SharePoint) or activity stream (Yammer). Now, if only one site could do both..

Open a Portal – Close the Sale: Why Manufacturers Create Sales Portals

Sarah Blog GraphicIn today’s world of social media, successful sales and marketing in manufacturing is a complex balancing act requiring more and more visibility to actual data. Real-time visibility to dealers, agents, and customers involved in your business has never been more important for maintaining successful pipelines and customer loyalty.

If you don’t have a bi-directional communication portal to every channel of your business, you’re missing the critical information you need to stay ahead of your competition. You may not have a sales portal to your business, but your competition does and they are listening. They are listening to your prospects, your reps, and your customers.

The good news is many manufacturers who have become lean on the production floor are learning that applying similar principles in sales and marketing can also lead to increased production. These manufacturers know nothing is more important to their sales than an accurate visual of what is happening in their channel right now.

These forward-thinking manufacturers are looking at their complex sales scenarios, including inside sales, field sales, direct sales, reseller networks and partner sales and noticing communication gaps, redundant data and slow movement. They understand two things very clearly. First, they recognize the impracticality of trying to make good decisions using countless spreadsheets on multiple desktops with no consolidation. Next, they understand that their sales models include people who are not their employees but rely on them for business performance and that giving these non-employees a method to communicate allows their companies to monitor and adjust their performance. Then they ask, “How can we view the whole sales process in real time to better run our business?” And the answer is a sales portal which helps improve management and forecasting in these areas:

  • Account ownership
  • Distributor management
  • Order management
  • Support management
  • Pipeline visibility
  • Quoting
  • Closing
  • Messaging

A sales portal can also bridge the gap to your back-end systems and create a seamless communication protocol that empowers everyone in the channel, employees and non-employees, while providing accurate real-time visibility in a secure manner that can help accelerate the sales process.

View the Edgewater Channel Portal in action.

What can you monitor with a sales portal?

  • Real-time dashboards
  • Heat maps across the entire territory showing high and low performers
  • Inside, field and channel sales
  • Security between users accessing quotes and orders
  • 30/60/90 day forecasts
  • New revenue
  • Estimated close dates
  • Quote requests
  • Service requests
  • Customer loyalty
  • Announcements for tradeshows and product guidelines

With a portal you empower your sales force with the tools needed to succeed. Each user has a different security level and sees a custom dashboard. For example, a manufacturer’s rep can see how his or her overall pipeline is performing. The rep can see new leads, can adjust those leads and can notify you of constraints. As the manufacturer you can see the rep’s pipeline incorporated into yours, and you can help move sales along by knowing precisely where the rep is in the pipeline. You can also send discounts to your field reps immediately and see how those discounts perform real time.

With a sales portal you can allow all of your reps to have access to a common document library and collaborate via discussion groups where you  can include future products, sales literature, competitive information and more.

To see what is happening right now means opening a sales portal, which is as easy as opening a dock door in the warehouse – once you build it.

From Web Analytics to Customer Intelligence

CIWe recently were invited to present internally at a prominent health care payer network about the rapidly changin role and importance of web analytics. Gone are the good old days when it was enough to just run a log analyzer or put a simple tag to collect all the information needed about the interactions a customer has with you. Analysis used to be limited in scope and focus on a handful of parameters that could be optimized, such as bounce rates and conversion rates, by tweaking the checkout flows and usability improvements.

Not that conversion rate optimization is less important today but as customer interactions focus less and less on just the company website, the new critical need is to try and get a coherent picture of general customer behavior across all touch points. Instead of trying to infer customer thoughts and concerns through their clickstreams, many are now openly expressing needs and problems through social media.

This goes beyond “cross channel marketing” into the new area Forrester and others are now calling Customer Intelligence (CI). Similar to the way business data evolved from simple reporting into Business Intelligence (BI), as customer data gets more complex and varied, putting everything together and drawing conclusions and trends from it will need to employ similar methods and tools.

This is primarily a mindset change from the somewhat passive “analytics” to the broader and much more active role of managing and providing customer intelligence.

The expectations from Web Analytics professionals and systems are changing as well from the cyclical analysis and response to the providing of on demand, immediate intelligence for both individual and aggregate customer needs and problems. In some companies this evolved into a real “command center” that has 24/7 monitoring and interaction tools to listen, interact and respond to customer needs.

There are a few challenges that mark this transition:

  • Quantity: The quantity of interaction points is exploding due to social media, online videos and mobile devices.
  • Traceability: It is very hard to identify users across various media. Mapping a web user to a Facebook account or twitter feed is not always possible.
  • Immediacy: There is an overwhelming need and expectation for immediate response.

Here is a conceptual diagram of this new reality illustrating all the new interaction points being consolidated into the central Customer Intelligence and the introduction of the analytical services that can be used to optimize the user experience.

These analytical services can work on both an individual and aggregate level:

  • Individual: If we can aggregate customer data and interactions from different channels, this will dramatically improve segmentation, insight for sales and customer service professionals interacting with the customer, and services that can target offers or content in real time based on user past interest and behavior.
  • Collective intelligence: By looking at customer activity across all channels we can:
    • Optimize targeting through the different channels and our investment in them
    • Improve recommendations
    • Identify trends
    • Identify problems / issues / sentiment changes and address them quickly.

To start implementing Customer Intelligence, the process is now becoming quite similar to implementing a BI solution

  • Expand use of social listening and data capturing tools and store their data
  • Adjust data models to accommodate multiple user identifiers, channels, devices etc.
  • Redefine KPI’s
  • Define and implement analytical services
  • Adjust reporting and analytics
    • Real time
    • Dashboard level

The Web Analytics vendors are starting to step up and offer tools and support for Customer Intelligence. In upcoming posts we’ll look into WebTrends, Omniture, Google and IBM to see how their offerings stack up and the type of solutions they support.

Are eCommerce prices getting too dynamic?

This holiday season I was looking for a specific toy as a gift. I did a price comparison and found it had the lowest price at the Toys R’ Us site. When I went back to make the purchase just 2 hours later, the price has jumped up by 50%. Now I had to do my comparison all over again. That was frustrating to say the least.

This is the latest example of Dynamic Pricing. It’s been around for a while but mostly in scarcity driven industries like airlines and hospitality / entertainment. Here the rules of the game are clear, inventory is limited, it has an expiration date, securing a sale in advance has benefits and discounters can help you sell last minute excess inventory.

Now back to our dynamic pricing for $50 toys, other than a few highly desirable toys before Christmas, this is not a scarcity market. Special sale, timed sales, loyalty coupons and all these dynamic promotions are confusing enough but serve a purpose. Not being able to do a simple price comparison and place an order is annoying and will impact the buying decision. If there is always the possibility of a lower price just around the corner, then let’s wait.

Target had recently announced that it will begin price matching for all products, even against amazon but details on implementation are a bit fuzzy.

As dynamic pricing gets more widely used and noticed by consumers, how will they react?

Here are a few suggestions for retailers considering or implementing dynamic pricing strategies:

  • If the products you sell are of a limited quantity, knowing how many are there (at this price) is very helpful. What Orbitz does for example (only 3 tickets left at this price!) gives the consumer valuable information and an incentive to act fast.
  • If a price is reduced for a period of time, let the consumer know for how long it will stay at this price. Again, enables decision making.
  • Shop with confidence. While guarantees against future discounts are problematic, consider offering this to members of your loyalty club. The same way a great sales associate will tell you a sale is starting next week and he will hold the items for you so you can pick them up at the lower price, rewarding the best customers with price assurance and advance knowledge of sales will go a long way.
  • If you are putting an item below the competition, make it known. Consumers may doubt it but if they check and found it is true it will build trust.
  • Try not to put items that are dynamically priced into an email. Since you have no control over when the consumer will read the email, they may be viewing pricing that are no longer correct.
  • Feed the aggregators and comparison sites as soon as changes are made.

The key theme here is that dynamic pricing can be great if the buyers are given enough confidence and information to make decisions. Otherwise it may just make the the consumer even more hesitant to click the “Buy” button.

The new Arms Race: Social Customer Care

cusotmer careHow quickly should your company respond to a question or a comment in social media? Unfortunately, many companies I know will respond “Never!”. It is a sentiment we hear a lot that most of the online complaints are from a handful of trouble makers and response will only make it worse.

Well, sorry guys but customers now expect quick and effective response to social media and companies that are not gearing up to meet these expectations will be left far behind.

A recent survey done by Social Habit found that 32% expect a response in less than 30 minutes, and a total of 42% expect a response within the hour. 24/7. How are major brands doing in their social response times? Social Media Influence has a great infographic that shows some brands social activity and response times. Wal-Mart responds in an hour and a half but to only 7% on inquiries while Target responds in 2:48 hours to 85%.

It seems like this is a new arms race and everyone expects these response times to go down and/or requests addressed to go up. Like all social media activity, the consumers and big brands lead the way but once the expectation is there, smaller brands and B2B companies will  be expected to meet these new standards or risk a customer satisfaction issue.

This is especially important for companies that see Service as their competitive advantage, like agent based insurance companies, services companies and luxury brands.

A few guidelines for effective social customer care:

  • Listen! Effective listening and feeding of social inquiries to the customer care team is a must. Even if you choose not to respond, knowing what is said in a timely manner is critical
  • Connect the social listening and response management to your CRM. A large portion of complaints is related to recent purchases or an attempt to contact customer care in other ways that did not get results. CRM systems need to include a place for other identifiers for customer in addition to email and phone number. Facebook name, Twitter Handle etc. need to be part of the user profile. A social inquiry needs to be seen in context and the activity recorded for future interactions. This level of social customer intelligence is going to differentiate companies that do it right.
  • Direct service activities to a separate channel. To avoid cluttering the main FB and Twitter feeds with customer issues, create a special account for it and clearly set expectations as to when it is active. A great example is what the Microsoft XBOX team did on http://twitter.com/xboxsupport

  • Set internal standards for response times and integrate these metrics into the overall customer care KPI’s.

For other examples of brands doing it right see this great post. HBR also has an interesting, more structural post on the topic.

10 Best New Features of SharePoint 2013

The new SharePoint 2013 was just reached “Release To Manufacturing” stage! It is available for download now to MSDN subscribers and slated to be officially released in Q1 2013.

To celebrate, we thought to share some of the highlights in this upcoming release. While SP13 builds nicely on the foundation of previous versions, it does offer plenty of cool new features / improvements for business users to get excited about.

So here are the top 10 in no specific order.

  1. Cloud First: while SharePoint was part of Office 365 for some time now, it was a limited experience. SP13 is promising the full experience in the cloud + regular release of improvements and enhancements.
  2. The Newsfeed: taking the best from Facebook and Twitter, the new Newsfeed is the centerpiece of SP13 social push. The foundation was there in SP10 but you needed an external component like NewsGator to make it work. Now you’ll be able to build your network, follow colleagues and post / search the newsfeed at different organizational levels. #hashtags for all! For more…
  3. Communities: the other new social feature is the ability to create communities. A community (as separated from a project team) is for getting a group of people to collaborate more freely around a topic and share expertise. Built around Discussions, it expands them into seeing members, their contributions and allows easy formation of expert communities. For more…
  4. Cross site publishing allows for the first time to share content across sites, site collections, applications and even farms. We built a custom solution for this for an insurance company that wanted to post new forms to the public site, Agent portal and Intranet in a single action. Now it is built in. For more….
  5. Search had received a major upgrade. The acquisition of FAST was finally integrated into the main SharePoint search resulting in a long list of great improvements such as: Search for conversations, videos and reports, visual results and in-page previews, context sensitive sorting, advanced filters and of course, better performance, API’s etc. For more…
  6. SharePoint Apps!: one of the major changes to SP13 is the concept of apps. Apps are just like they sound, web applications that can be packaged so users can add them to pages or use them from within SharePoint. Not that different from the concept of solution packs before (line the Famous Fab 40 that were discontinued in SP10..) of packaging your web app in a web part. The new model does have a few advantages. It gives users more control on apps to use and while IT can still approve apps, they do not need to install them for users. It can also make internal applications easier to find and reduce redundancy. For more on apps see the Microsoft SharePoint apps blog.
  7. Simple project / task management: for complex project management you still have project server but it is an overkill for most simple projects. The new team site template includes the ability to manage tasks, deadlines and a simple work breakdown structure for a project team. It generates a personal and a group view of tasks and timelines perfect for keeping everyone on time. For more.,..
  8. Enterprise eDiscovery: one of the essential requirements for ECM in this age is a good eDiscovery mechanism to ensure content related to litigation or information requests can be executed efficiently and across all information repositories. SP13 is adding a new eDiscovery center that would make this a lot easier. For more…
  9. New Usage Analytics and useful views: Microsoft is replacing the SharePoint analytics with 2 new tools: search analytics and usage analytics. Usage analytics provide more detailed view of how SharePoint is used and even better, adds up to 12 cutom events to be added and tracked without custom tagging. You can also use the data collected from these tools for useful views such as Most Popular, Popular Searches ect. For more ..
  10. Better support for digital assets: there is no longer a need to create a special media library for digital assets. Once enabled, audio, video and other rich media can be added to any library. For more…

How to Optimize Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Applications (Part 1)

When considering optimal performance for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the following areas require attention:

  1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web Application
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customizations
  3. Custom Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK Applications
  4. Microsoft Dynamics Reporting Services

In this blog, I will highlight changes to improve performance for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web Application.  Additional blogs will follow highlighting areas two, three and four.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web Application Optimization

The following are some simple changes to the out of the box configuration of Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

Setting the Default Views:

When starting Microsoft Dynamics CRM, viewing all records for an entity can be resource intensive, particularly as the size of the database increases. In order to improve system performance, the default views should be customized to limit the records that are displayed. For example, to see the default view for Contacts (assuming changes are made to the default solution):

  • STEP 1: On the Microsoft Dynamics CRM home page,
    • Select ‘Settings’;
    • Then under ‘Customization’, click ‘Customizations’;
    • Select ‘Customize the System’;
  • STEP 2: In the Solution window, under Components,
    • Select ‘Entities’;
    • Then select ‘Contact’;
    • Finally select Views;

NOTE: In the list of available views, the entry for the current default view is marked with a star. It displays as Default Public View.

  • STEP 3: Select the different view you that you want to set as default, then on the action toolbar,
    • Select ‘More Actions’;
    • Then select ‘Set Default’;
  • STEP 4: To save and publish the configuration changes, select ‘Publish All Customizations’ or under the Contact entity select ‘Publish’.

Quick Find Views (Limiting Search Columns):

The quantity of fields that are searched to display quick find results can directly affect performance.  For optimal performance, the quick find feature per entity should only be configured to search the fields that address specified business requirements. The following steps explain how to customize the ‘Quick Find’ feature (assuming changes are made to the default solution):

  • STEP 1: On the Microsoft Dynamics CRM home page,
    • Select ‘Settings’;
    • Then under ‘Customization’, click ‘Customizations’;
    • Select ‘Customize the System’;
  • STEP 2: In the Solution window, under Components,
    • Select ‘Entities’;
    • Then select the entity for the ‘Quick Find’ view needs to be customized;
    • Finally select Views;
  • STEP 3: In the list of views
    • Select the ‘Quick Find’ view;
    • Then on the action toolbar select ‘More Actions’;
    • Then select ‘Edit’;
  • STEP 4: In the ‘Quick Find’ view
    • Select ‘Add Find Columns’ located under ‘Common Tasks;
  • STEP 5: Select the fields that will be searched to provide Quick results and then select ‘Ok’.
  • STEP 6: Select ‘Save and Close’ in the ‘Quick Find’ window and then to save and publish the configuration changes, select ‘Publish All Customizations’ or under the selected entity select ‘Publish’.

If quick find results are slow to return with the simple changes described above, then database optimization techniques and tools should be leveraged with consideration to the following aspects:

  • The more columns included in a search, the longer the search will take.
  • Fields included in a search should be leading columns in indexes, even if this means creating one for each field. Also consider including in those indexes the Owner, BU, and the State fields, which are typically included in the query.
  • The use of filtered indexes can result in better query performance.

Best Practices:

The following are best practices to contemplate when considering optimal performance of CRM 2011:

  • Team Functionality: Teams can own records (objects) and records can be shared to teams thereby allowing members of that team access to the shared records.  Leveraging the enhanced team’s functionality should be considered as opposed to a complex business hierarchy because teams will provide better performance with a lesser drawback for security checks.
  • Field Level Security (FLS) Functionality: Field Level Security provides more granular control over the data that specified users can or cannot create, update or view. While FLS is a great feature to use the more comprehensively it is used in an implementation, the greater the impact on performance.

To learn more about Edgewater’s Microsoft Dynamics expertise visit www.fullscope.com

Is the 1-9-90 rule for social participation dead?

It has long been an axiom that getting people to participate in online communities is hard, and the 1/9/90 rule helped explain why. 1% will be die-hard content creators, 9% will participate and 90% will be passive consumers and sit on the sidelines.

A recent BBC study claims the old rules are dead and that a whopping 77% of adults should be considered participators in some capacity. Interestingly, GigaOm pounced and claimed the old rules still apply.

I think the BBC research is on to something and that the online participation patterns have changed. Few of the things may have contributed:

  • Consolidation: social networks such as Facebook and Twitter consolidate for us updates and posts from multiple communities and allow us to respond directly from there. You no longer need to go and check on 7 different communities to see what is going on.
  • Ease of content creation and sharing especially from mobile devices. Probably too easy if you ask me. if you allow it, your phone will post your location, the pictures you take and more without even asking. The success of Instagram is just one example. Being connected 100% of the time allows us to interact 100% of the day.
  • We are not anonymous anymore. It has been a slow change but if the late 90’s were about virtual identities and avatars, now we interact as real people. It may look like a small change but the whole nature of online interaction shifted from an outlet to interactions we wanted to have outside of our normal (and sometimes restrictive) social circle to where now most of the online interaction is with our social circle. More and more the online communities and social networks augment and extend our real relationships with people and brands.
  • While some people who came to the party felt a bit out of place and stayed close to the wall for a while. After some time you realize that keeping to yourself in a social setting is not very nice and that people actually notice. If you are part of the community, participation is now expected.

So if the BBC is right and we should be expecting more participation what does it mean for businesses?

Business social participation may still be closer to the old rules because they do not reflect a close knit social group but as more people become comfortable in sharing it will start to have an impact.

Internally, collaboration and social networking with colleagues will eventually follow the same pattern of heightened participation if you allow the same enablers. Aggregate and consolidate activities and updates so they are easy to access, make it easy to respond to them and embed interaction and sharing everywhere in internal web applications, sites, tools etc. Making sharing a social norm may not be too far off.

Externally, in addition to the brand enthusiasts and deal seekers there is now a potential in making a lot more people participants

  • Think about creating content that people would want to share. Too many websites and social media sites focus on the marketing side “what we have to sell”. Cool or useful things to do with the product or that are just related to the category will more easily be viral.
  • Many websites have added sharing and likes to their pages but few take it to the level of actually allowing specific questions or comments through social networks on content or products.
  • Think mobile sharing. From QR codes in trade show booths to special coupons for scanning or photographing in the store. Even my dentist has a promotion for getting free whitening pen if you scan a code and like him on Facebook. Brilliant.

The Case for a Business Case when Rolling Out SharePoint 2010

Before Migrating to SharePoint 2010 or Implementing SharePoint for the first time – do a business case!

The facts are stark: Almost 70% of enterprises are using SharePoint (Source) however the results of a survey conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) indicate that less than 50 percent of SharePoint implementations were subject to a formal business case, and only half of those that did required a financial justification. (Source)

Even if you’re sure you want to implement SharePoint for the first time or migrate to SharePoint 2010, it’s a good idea to do a business case. Why? Not just because it’s good form.  Unfortunately, organizations that skip this step risk taking steps in the wrong direction instead of rectifying identified problems with elegant solutions.

First, let’s take a look at what a business case is:

  • A document or statement that captures the reasoning for initiating a project
  • An acknowledgement of resources needed to complete the project and an understanding of the net value to the organization of doing the project
  • An accounting of quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits of doing the project
  • An outline of the known risks of doing the project
  • A look at the alternatives to the planned implementation, including doing nothing

SharePoint 2010 is a great product, with many new features including seamless integration with Office, major improvements to Search, and great collaboration features.  So, why is it a good idea to do a business case even when you’re already clear that you want to migrate to SharePoint 2010 or implement SharePoint for the first time?

The act of creating the business case begins to make the successes and impacts of the project a reality. In the case of SharePoint 2010, one of the first important tasks is to really articulate what SharePoint will be FOR YOU and your organization.  SharePoint is multifaceted.  The more focused an organization can be on what it needs out of SharePoint, the more likely its implementation will be successful.

Writing a business case means thinking about the questions of why are we doing this? What are the costs, timescale, benefits, and risks?  Having thought through these questions and their answers, even best guesses at ROI and benefits, and presenting them in a well formed document provides you with something to share and enables you to involve other people. Such a document is a good means of getting buy-in and socializing the changes you want to see, as early in the planning stages. Even when change will bring a positive outcome, it’s never easy to get everyone on the same page for a smooth transition.  SharePoint can never be rolled out by one individual – as a system it will need at least cooperation from just about everyone in an organization, and starting with a clear understanding of why the change is happening and what the benefits are provides a solid foundation for success.

Even in organizations planning a migration to SharePoint 2010, there are multiple ways and reasons to migrate. The costs can be considerable, just like the benefits.  Consider this statement from Rob Helm, an analyst from Directions on Microsoft:  “SharePoint 2010 will challenge even companies already using SharePoint… Even for existing users, there are differences. The way supporting services are managed is different. Administrators and architects will need a lot of ramp-up time to understand the new product version. In some areas, it’s an even bigger jump than we saw moving from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007.”  (Source)

“Technology provides no benefits of its own; it is the application of technology to business opportunities that produces ROI.”  —Robert McDowell, In Search of Business Value   (Source)

Getting specific on the tensions solved by migrating to or implementing SharePoint 2010 not only allows your organization to do the right thing for its growth, but also to have the means to look back and assess success.

If, like many organizations do, you plan on hiring a vendor to do the implementation or migration, you will want this information prepared to communicate your needs to the vendor.  You’ll be better able to evaluate the vendor’s proposals and solutions if you’ve thought your needs and concerns through. Edgewater does many SharePoint implementation and migration projects and no two are ever the same.  It’s important that you use SharePoint to build solutions to the problems specific to your business. Don’t just skim the surface and fit your needs to a list of features that you know of or that already exist. This will lead to poor adoption and waste of your resources. The better you understand your actual needs, the better your solution can be.

Another important facet of the business case for SharePoint is that it encourages you to focus on ROI – it’s important for companies to really understand the long term costs of a SharePoint implementation.  When implemented correctly, SharePoint 2010 can save your business considerable costs and streamline your processes.

In addition, training is critical to making any conversion a success.  Sitting down to write or review a business case can be the first step in really thinking through what it means to make a successful change, how best to do it, and what it means in terms of specific costs and specific benefits to the organization.

So a good business case:

  • Backs up a decision to transition to SharePoint 2010
  • Forecasts expected ROI and other intangible benefits
  • Provides a vehicle for buy-in for both decision makers and potential users
  • Outlines measurable goals for the business, ensures actions are in-line with ideas
  • Reveals level of effort to implement a new SharePoint platform
  • Is a good vehicle to socialize the thinking and set expectations

A good business case can help your company focus on allocating the right resources, know what to expect, and be clear on what constitutes a successful project completion.  If your business case is convincing at a certain price point, and all your RFP responses come in higher than that, you’ll readily know if the project is really worth pursuing, or what portion of it to focus on first if you’ve written a good business case.

As author J. Peter Bruzzese  puts it, “SharePoint 2010 is jam-packed with new features that matter, ones that will increase productivity if used properly. I predict the number of companies using SharePoint is going to soar with this next release. I’ve been working with SharePoint since its first release (where I hated it) through 2007 (where it was growing on me) on to 2010 (where I can honestly say I’m really impressed by and loving it).” (Source) There are many resources available through searching online to assist with creating a business case for SharePoint 2010, but only someone with real knowledge of YOUR organization can write the business case for you, and ensure you’re using SharePoint 2010 properly to serve your business’s needs.

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Related post on ROI of Enterprise 2.0:
https://edgewatertech.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/why-ceo%E2%80%99s-must-care-about-enterprise-20-as-a-strategic-imperative/